What we do, as consultants and coaches, is framed by a particular way of seeing the world – our institutions, our communities and our natural environment – and how we engage with it. Our ‘world view’, if you like.
To better understand our approach, the services we offer, why we offer them, and how they combine, we invite you to take this short journey into our thinking:
Photograph by kind permission of Keith Lightbody.
The Context, Role and Impact of Leadership
"Globalization has brought a new level of interdependence… that never existed before, along with truly global problems that also have no precedent." Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution
"I came to learn that everyone in the community had a role: even though some of the people were from different areas, they were all a part of that community and their main role was to look after us." Tex Skuthorpe, Nhunggabarra storyteller
"Our lives… both demand and deserve reflection. They demand reflection because we must know what is in our hearts, lest our leadership do more harm than good. They deserve reflection because it is often challenging to sustain the heart to lead." Parker J. Palmer
- Leadership does not occur in a vacuum. Everything is connected to everything else – everything, every being and every leader is part of a complex, holistic system of life
- We cannot not be in relationship with others and with the Earth; the only question is how sustainable – how generative and life-giving - those relationships are!
- We focus on ‘leadership’, not ‘leaders’ as we believe that every human being has a leadership to offer, somewhere in our lives, and this is best exercised when we honour our ‘authentic voice’ and our own ‘Way of Being’.
- Leadership involves influencing others for the sake of group purpose. As a simple fact of life, simply being alive is to influence others. We can’t not influence – the only question is whether our (leadership) influence is conscious, intentional and positive in its effect, rather than negative, neglectful or controlling.
- We believe leadership involves responding to life in ways that have a positive or life-giving impact on others and our environment. Effective leadership can profoundly affect the lives of others and the sustainability of our planet. Quality leadership is, therefore, vital to help us achieve our potential, and to shape the future.
- Being prepared to offer our leadership isn’t always easy – it takes courage as well as genuine care.
- Today's organizational, social and environmental challenges demand that we realize our individual and collective leadership potential. We can’t afford to leave it to ‘them’ – diverse contributions are needed to meet the unfolding opportunities and challenges we face.
- Leadership isn’t about the formal roles or positions we occupy (or don’t), it’s about our personal ability to influence others. While formal roles and structures may occasionally or even frequently obscure it from our view, social systems are ultimately communities that involve sets of relationships. (We are also part of a living non-human community.)
- How effective our leadership is with other people relates directly to how effective we are with our conversations and in establishing and maintaining meaningful, satisfying and effective relationships.
- Our leadership effectiveness also depends on our capacity to notice the impact of our actions and our ‘Way of Being’. In other words, our capacity for self-reflection and learning. If we’re unaware of our negative impact, we can't shift it. If we're unaware of our positive impact, we’re less likely to replicate it.
- One vital role of leadership, and leadership development becomes the capacity to not just develop our own leadership, but that of others. The more leadership, the better.
Our thoughts on Artful leadership
We consider that Artful Leadership involves the following aspects.
- Perhaps it's most obviously about CREATIVITY and with that, POSSIBILITY. Artful leadership involves honouring ‘what might be.’ Life is a creative process, with new life and new forms continually emerging. Just as life is naturally creative, so are we, and our leadership is only strengthened when we recognize, allow and act upon our ideas and initiatives, grand and small.
"Life constantly reaches out into novelty."
- It's about recognizing and honouring our UNIQUE EXPRESSION and CHARACTER, and living with authenticity and integrity, in keeping with our values, our strengths and our own sense of identity. We all benefit when we express who we are, and what we can do. Art is not a production line, and neither is leadership — it relies on authentic self-expression.
"The force of character is cumulative."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
- It's about purpose and MEANING. People CARE about life and their role in it. To exercise artful leadership then means having the courage and commitment to act from passion and compassion in the SERVICE of a vision to achieve something beyond ourselves.
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
- It's about STORY and CULTURE. This means honouring the powerful role that stories have in creating our cultures and our realities. Art and artful leadership helps us to see the stories we all live in, and to encourage us to recognize that we can re-narrate these at anytime. At its best artful leadership involves highly effective, even transformational, conversations and storytelling, in particular, has a great capacity to heal, transcend and unite, and to galvanise.
"The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story."
- It's about connecting with others, through a trust in COLLECTIVE WISDOM and COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIPS. Artful leadership has both an individual nature, and a collective nature. Just as an orchestra relies on many musicians to produce a symphony, so too does our leadership rely on the cooperation of others. Likewise, their leadership relies on ours.
""If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
- It's about PLAYFULNESS, BEAUTY and PERFORMANCE. Art and artful leadership involves working with our natural desire to bring joy and fun to how we do things. It's not opposed to accomplishment — indeed the opposite is true. It means honouring what attracts us and makes life ‘worth living’ so that our performance enriches and entertains others.
"We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play."
- It's about being OPEN and ADAPTING to our rapid and constantly changing social and natural environment. Art and artful leadership involves recognising and working with EMERGENCE — the natural flow of life, beyond plans and schedules. It means seeing that ‘life happens' and creating environments that work with this truth, not against it, in order to embrace challenge, change and innovation.
"Emergence is always happening. If we don't work with it, it will work us over!"
- It's about DISCIPLINE and PRACTICE. Good art demands attention and a honing of the craft, and this is no less true of leadership. This involves adopting a ‘beginners mind’ where even old skills and knowledge are new ‘every day’, along with a commitment to developing and sustaining new knowledge, skills and expertise.
"Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most."
- It's about seeing the whole as a CREATIVE MELTING POT. Art adopts a HOLISTIC perspective, which everything is seen, linked and used. In artful leadership everything is potentially a canvas or a blank page; a pen or a brush; a costume or an instrument; a stage or a gallery.
"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
- It's about WISDOM, through the artful practice of self-reflection and patient observation. As with art, artful leadership involves a search for TRUTH and a willingness and capacity to honour ‘what is.’
"The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode."
Our Thoughts on Collective Transformation
We believe that effective learning and growth in any social system – any organisation or community – occurs at both an individual and a collective level AND it occurs at both an external, rational level and at an internal, psychological or cultural level.
This holistic or ‘integral’ perspective has been popularised by Ken Wilber's well-known integral theory which identifies four resulting quadrants, each with their own distinctive role as well as being a necessary part of the whole. (See our adapted version of Wilber's model below, represented as an iceberg.)
BOTH INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE LEARNING
Individual Learning is vital!
"Individual learning does not guarantee organisational learning. But without it, no organisational learning occurs."
Peter Senge, ‘The Fifth Discipline – The Art & Practice of the Learning Organisation’
Collective change rarely occurs without the individuals who belong to it also learning and growing. Other things being equal, the greater number of individuals who consciously learn to exercise their leadership potential, the greater the prospects and momentum there is for collective change.
Our work, including individual 360° feedback tools and one-on-on coaching, engages people by exploring the learning they most need and want to do, for their own sake, and for those they wish to lead.
AND/BUT… Collective Transformation is more than the sum of the parts!
"…we have already learned that the transformation of large numbers of individuals [alone] does not result in the transformation of communities." Peter Block, ‘Community – The Structure of Belonging’
Peter Block notes that it is naïve to believe "that if enough individuals awaken, and become intentional and compassionate beings, the shift in community [or organization] will follow." What is required is a structured approach to supporting the relationships amongst fellow individual learners and between them and their broader community.
Our programs are deliberately designed to deepen and extend relationships within and beyond the participant group, through the experience of ‘social learning’ as a vital element of community and organization.
BOTH EXTERNAL (‘OUTER WORK’) AND INTERNAL (‘INNER WORK’)
Changes to Behaviour and Practice are Evidence of Change.
"Behaviour is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes."
Success or performance is ultimately measured by whether our actions yield or exceed the results we seek. This demands a change in our individual behaviour and in our collective practices.
Our approach ensures we simultaneously link psychological and cultural learning with ‘action-learning’ through experimentation with new individual behaviour and new collective approaches.
AND/BUT… without a Shift of Mindsets, New Behaviour won't ‘stick’.
"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
– Anaîs Nin
Individuals rarely sustain new behaviours unless it is accompanied by a new ‘Way of Being’ – a new way of seeing themselves and the world – and an organisation or community's practices only endure when it is aligned with shared identity and values (culture).
Our work, at both an individual and collective level invites people to reflect on how well their way of seeing themselves, others and our environment serves them. We invite individuals to have the courage to reflect deeply on long-held beliefs for new insights and breakthrough paradigms. We invite organisations and communities to reassess their culture. Most organisations seek results through improvements to their systems or by developing new strategies, without realizing that the biggest gains are to be made through investment in strengthening culture. ‘Culture…’ Peter Drucker is claimed to have said ‘…eats strategy for breakfast’. Strategy is important, but what is needed is an alignment between strategic plans and a sense of belonging, between goals and passions, between head and heart.
All this talk of change and transformation suggests we've got lots of ‘broken’ people and organisations. The truth is usually otherwise! What is often needed is to help people and organisations to get back in touch with the best of themselves and to realign with these positive memories, stories and images.
"Organizations do not need to be fixed. They need constant reaffirmation… to be appreciated. They grow through discovery of what gives life to the human system, expression of future possibilities and searching for the best in people… and the relevant world around them.
Human systems tend to evolve in the direction of positive images of the future. Positive images create positive futures. Focus on success we create more success." David Cooperrider